THE only London-bound flights from the Westcountry are set to secure a four-year Government-funded lifeline, with Newquay Airport planning to tender the route to potential airline operators within the next few weeks.
Newquay Airport managing director Al Titterington said that the airport anticipates recommending an operator to the Department for Transport – which will fly a daily return route between Cornwall and the capital’s Gatwick Airport – for sign off, by the end of June.
He said the new schedule would be ready for launch the day after a temporary service being flown by Exeter-based Flybe comes to an end on October 25.
The Cornwall Council owned airport is set to tender the route out to airlines in an open process in the “next couple of weeks” and will evaluate the applications over a four to six week period. Mr Titterington said he anticipated bids to fly the route from “at least” eight UK and European operators.
The costings of the successful bid will determine how much of a share in a £20 million Public Service Obligation (PSO) – a subsidy allocated by the Government maintain air connectivity in the furthest reaches of the UK – that Newquay will receive over a four -year period. The finance will gap-fund any shortfall in the cost of providing the service incurred on the airline’s part.
Newquay Airport is set to make its recommendation to the Department for Transport in June, which would allow the successful airline to begin marketing its flights in September and launch its service from Cornwall on October 26.
Flybe announced in the autumn that it would be withdrawing from the Gatwick route in March, claiming that the capital airport’s landing charges were excessive.
In December, it said that it would continue the route until October this year, while the council and airport bosses pushed ahead with talks over Newquay’s PSO status.
Mr Titterington was among the speakers at a meeting held by The Devon and Cornwall Business Council in Exeter earlier today, to debate the impact of recent weather on the Westcountry transport infrastructure and debate the region's future connectivity moving ahead.
Introducing the keynote speakers, DCBC chairman Tim Jones said: “The ability to connect with London is something we lose at our peril. It’s regarded as a global centre and if we are not well connected, you significantly lose out.”
He led calls for Westcountry business leaders to unite in determining their transport priorities and in lobbying to effect change.
Business leaders also discussed the need for any expansion at Heathrow to include a guaranteed allocation of space for regional airports, which would ensure connectivity from the most remote parts of the UK.
A Government debate over the politically contentious issue of a third runway at Heathrow – one of three key recommendations outlined by the Government-commissioned Davies report – has been put on hold until after the next general election, however.